Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are developing their own legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare and plan to unveil it as early as next week.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina told reporters the proposal currently being drafted takes much of the language from a 2015 GOP measure to dismantle the health care law that Congress passed but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama. “It echoes a repeal and a replacement at the same time.”
Hill Republicans have struggled in recent weeks to get on the same page for how they plan to roll back Obamacare and create a new system, while still addressing concerns from voters about disruptions in insurance coverage during a transition period.
This latest effort will add pressure on leaders from those on the right, who have expressed frustration with the lack of more immediate action on a central 2016 campaign promise. President Donald Trump added to the confusion over the weekend when he told Fox News that his effort to get rid of the law and stand up a new health care system could spill into next year.
“We’re going to be putting it in fairly soon, I think that — yes, I would like to say by the end of the year at least the rudiments but we should have something within the year and the following year,” Trump said.
South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford is taking the lead on the new legislation, taking input from Freedom Caucus members and others and putting them into legislative language. The group met Monday evening to go over the framework and is likely to endorse the measure. It will take some elements of a proposal already introduced by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has argued that both efforts — rolling back the law and creating a new system — need to happen simultaneously.
Meadows stressed that the measure will protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and said another focus was “making sure costs go down.”
Conservatives plan to push for a vote on their bill alongside the Republican leadership’s reconciliation package that is being constructed now by key committees. Meadows said action on both doesn’t necessarily need to be simultaneous, but “certainly needs to be the same week.”
The North Carolina Republican suggested that because states are split on how to address those getting coverage through the Medicaid program that the new legislation would likely propose allocating funds through block grants and letting states administer the programs on their own.
Vice President Mike Pence attended a lunch in the Capitol Tuesday with another group of House conservatives, the Republican Study Committee, to reassure members that the Administration was in fact on the same page with moving swiftly ahead with its top legislative priority.
RSC Chairman Mark Walker, who introduced the first GOP health care bill last month, told CNN that Pence reiterated to members in that meeting that “regardless of how it was articulated on O’Reilly or over the weekend, that they are committed to moving quickly with this.”
Walker, a former pastor who is in his second term in Congress, downplayed any mixed messages on the process from the president.
“I think like I did, coming from a background without any kind of political experience or history, there is a procedural part that you have to learn and I want to be a little patient and allow the President some time just to basically figure out the timelines that it takes just to get some of this done.”